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The southern half of Canada's west coast is justly famous for its fabulous scenery and pitched battles to save remnants of its magnificent coniferous forest-but what about the northern half? Between Vancouver island and Alaska, the mainland BC coast winds through a 250-mile wonderland of forested islands and inlets every bit as enchanting as the southern half, but still very much as nature created it, a wonderfully complex and delicate rainforest ...
The southern half of Canada's west coast is justly famous for its fabulous scenery and pitched battles to save remnants of its magnificent coniferous forest-but what about the northern half? Between Vancouver island and Alaska, the mainland BC coast winds through a 250-mile wonderland of forested islands and inlets every bit as enchanting as the southern half, but still very much as nature created it, a wonderfully complex and delicate rainforest masterpiece ten thousand years in the making. The area is one of the northern hemisphere's richest unprotected wildlife habitats, the home of Canada's largest grizzly bears as well as the rare all-white spirit or Kermode bear.
Ian and Karen McAllister, both environmental campaigners, have spent over ten years exploring, photographing and researching this once-forgotten coast. The book contains over 150 stunning colour photographs, including some of the most extraordinary images of wild bears ever seen in print, lush river valleys where grizzly bears feast on salmon, dramatic Coast Range mountaintops, exotic plants of the ancient rainforest, and some of the most magnificent coastline in Canada. With these photographs, a personable, informative commentary by Ian and Karen and environmental writer Cameron Young, and full-colour maps and drawings, this book is the first to unveil the beauty and magnificence of this unique place.
Since 1990, fourteen large rainforest valleys on the mainland coast of British Columbia have been lost to industrial logging. The publication of The Great Bear Rainforest aided Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Ian and Karen McAllister's Raincoast Preservation Society and other environmental groups successfully lobby BC's provincial government for a moratorium on grizzly-bear hunting and the protection of a large portion of the area as parkland in 2001.
In addition to its aesthetic and biological features, the rainforest is the centrepiece for British Columbia's tourist and fishing industries which will play important roles in the sustainable vitality of the area's economy. The forest is also home to First Nations peoples whose spiritual and cultural life is tied to its health. Unfortunately, irresponsible development and the lack of protection for the forest have left these unique cultures and the entire ecosystem in grave danger.
The British Columbia government has recently begun to recognize the importance of its north coast rainforest by setting aside small tracts as parks. These fragments are far too limited to sustain forest diversity. For example, grizzly bears, for which the northern BC
raincoast is prime habitat, often travel many miles in one day. The species will not survive in a scattered patchwork of small parks. As forest ecologist Jerry Franklin says, "the fragmentation turns plants and animals into virtual island dwellers, often with no acceptable way to travel from one remnant of habitat to another."
Ecologists are reporting the ominous deterioration associated with "Island Ecology" in systems as diverse as Yellowstone, Banff and the Serengeti. These same ecologists are now questioning whether any of the world's great parks is large enough to avoid steady ecosystem decline. As we enter the millennium, will every last elephant and grizzly bear be dependent on some degree of artificial life support?
These sobering questions are precisely why British Columbia's northern mainland coast deserves to be at the top of every conservation agenda. This forest region possesses the rarest of all environmental qualities: critical mass. At 8 million acres (3.2 million hectares) the whole Great Bear Rainforest is 9 times the size of the Olympic National Park, 5 times the size of Banff National Park and twice the size of the Serengeti -although the actual extent of productive forest amid all this wild landscape is a more modest 560,000 acres (224,000 hectares). It presents humankind with an opportunity, one which has already been lost elsewhere-to protect enough of one major ecosystem to guarantee the survival of all its components. Canada has the chance to create a world class natural attraction, store biodiversity and hedge against global climate change.
We know from experience in Oregon and Washington that the big logging companies will cut timber to the point of economic collapse. The BC provincial government's decision to encourage the hasty liquidation of these forests for cash through the most destructive practices of industrial logging is a global tragedy
I hope this book will help awaken people to the importance of this last magnificent stand of the great North American rainforest. If it is destroyed, history will not judge us harshly because few will know the magnificence that has been lost. Those of us who remember will only be able to open this book and say to our children, in Norman Maclean's lament, "Oh what a wonderful world it was."